‘Quality, accuracy and delivery’ reign day
Elk Grove, Calif.— Elk Grove Volkswagen’s Parts Manager AJ Killian, who has a total of 40 years experience with VW and Audi, started out as a parts consultant and then was promoted to management.
“I wanted to get into the management side of the industry and run a department,” he said. “The timing was right and the place was right and now I’ve been doing this for 32 years with the Lasher Auto Group.”
By watching the parts industry change over the past four decades, Killian is able to anticipate obstacles and other issues before they arise and, in many cases, capitalize on them.
“In the end, it all comes down to quality, accuracy, customer-centric service and delivery. If a parts department can do those things consistently, success will follow. Having a strong crew with a lot of experience is also a big part of our continued success and, of course, training and knowledge is a major component within that equation as well.”
With nine employees in the parts department at Elk Grove Volkswagen, a member of the Lasher Auto Group, the dealership is located in an auto park that also includes several other Lasher dealerships that sell parts and perform service on Audis, Acuras, Subarus and Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep/RAM/Fiat brands.
“It’s definitely a matter of power in numbers and by working on some projects interdepartmentally. Lasher has a strong presence in Elk Grove and the Greater Sacramento area,” Killian said. “We’re in the same building with Audi, and that helps us tremendously to get coverage on both brands when it comes to parts and service. Jeff McDougall, our Audi service manager, has been with the organization for 11 years and we repair approximately 6,000 Audis annually, so it’s also a significant part of our business here.”
Overseeing the efforts of 10 technicians, four service advisors and three support personnel on the Audi side, McDougall enjoys a mutually beneficial relationship with Killian’s department. “We do everything we can to keep all of the lines of communication wide open and that’s why we hold joint monthly and weekly meetings to stay on the same page,” McDougall said. “AJ and I have worked together so long that we anticipate what’s needed and our team really meshes well, so it’s a very good relationship.”
With a 74 percent in-house fill rate with an $800,000 inventory that consists of 60 percent mechanical parts and 40 percent collision, Elk Grove Volkswagen strives to be a strong wholesale player, Killian said. Working with a father-and-son outside sales rep company that works hard to visit as many shops as it can every month, Killian values a strong long-term relationship that pays off.
“We have been associated with RB Dealer Rep Company for the past 11 years, so we know what they’re doing and we see the results every week,” Killian said. “They know what our capabilities are and they know most of the mechanical and collision shops in this area very well. The owners, Carlos and George Barreto, are highly respected and that’s important, because the shops trust them and both of them have extensive body shop experience themselves, so it really benefits our wholesale efforts and brings us a lot of business as a result.”
By tapping into price-matching programs on the Volkswagen side, Killian can negotiate with his wholesale accounts to keep as many OE parts in every order if it applies, he said. “We use OPS Trax, Parts Trader and Collision Link, which are tied together. We’re already going to be shipping their parts, so why not keep it all on the same order if at all possible? If we don’t have anything immediately available, our warehouse is in Rocklin, so we’re able to get everything quickly and fulfill orders promptly. Most shops prefer OE parts, especially collision shops, and their insurance partners want them, too, so if we can oblige and still make a decent margin, we can retain those accounts for the long haul.”
Training and parts knowledge is always important and Killian’s wholesale customers expect it, so training is paramount and always stressed with his parts crew and service department at Elk Grove Volkswagen.
“We have a lot of very experienced people here and they always pursue their training, which is key. We have people who have been here for 10-25 years, so their overall knowledge is strong, but with today’s vehicles, you can never learn too much. We have three guys that are 100-percent dedicated to wholesale, so they can concentrate on that segment of the business and the others can focus on filling out in-house orders. It’s a system that works well and gives us complete coverage within both areas. We have been successful because we have great resources and can be logistically more efficient as a result.”